became actively involved in eradication for a number of reasons:
of forest users like hunters, hikers, DLNR employees, researchers and
flower gatherers is a priority for our Department. Hostile encounters
and booby traps along with a variety of other criminal acts have been
associated with the illegal cultivation of marijuana on State land.
has the potential of destroying native habitat due to the introduction
of herbicides, clear cutting, fertilizers, pesticides, rodenticide,
alien species, and trash. This in turn has a direct negative impact
on our fragile natural resources and disrupts sensitive wildlife species.
Large tracks of State land are being used for marijuana cultivation.
Since much of this land is under the jurisdiction of DLNR, we have the
primary responsibility to eradicate these plants.
It has been estimated that approximately 75% of all marijuana eradicated
in Hawaii was found on DLNR land. More plants could and would be eradicated
if adequate funding were available.
Unlike county efforts that deal primarily with private lands, the State
cannot expect to recoup expenses via asset forfeitures unless more emphasis
is placed in stakeouts. Stakeouts however, are manpower intensive and
less productive (in terms of number of plants eradicated) than herbicidal
eradication. DLNR along with our Law Enforcement counterparts continue
to seek ways to target individual growers in order to prevent them from
making a profit and to bring them before the criminal justice system
Even though large a number of plants are eradicated during each mission,
replanting occurs almost immediately afterward. As long as there are
individuals who engage in substance abuse and that there are large profits
to be realized from the sale of marijuana, growers will continue to
plant. If we are prohibited from eradicating these plants due to lack
of funding, there is no other way to prevent the cultivation and ultimate
distribution of this problem throughout our state.
If marijuana growth is not contained to State Lands, an even greater
demand will be placed on our criminal justice system as more marijuana
and related criminal activities find their way on to the streets.
DLNR is the lead agency for eradication missions that occur on lands
under the control of the Department. These missions are restricted to
unpopulated, undeveloped tracks of land like forest reserves, state
parks, watersheds and unencumbered lands.
Prior to 1986, the main thrust of action against cultivation was manual
eradication. In 1986, DLNR initiated a series of eradication operations,
which involved the aerial spraying of plots with herbicide. DLNR personnel
developed a spray rig, which allowed for the spot application of a chemical
agent directly over specific plants. This method proved to be more efficient
than manual eradication efforts resulting in a dramatic increase in
the number of plants eradicated
The only time that aircraft under our control over fly residential areas
is when our aircraft transition from one area to another. During these
transition flights our helicopters usually maintain or exceed 500 feet
above ground level, 200 feet higher that the 300-foot requirement established
by the FAA for flight over congested areas. Since the bulk of our work
is in remote isolated areas, flights over residential areas are at a
minimum. This altitude is important since it adds to our observer and
pilot’s ability to survive a crash resulting from an engine failure.
The following information is submitted to you to help clarify DLNR's
Marijuana Eradication Program's flight operations and minimum restrictions:
In addition to commercial licenses and certifications, pilots approved
to fly for the Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE)
are required to pass a proficiency evaluation that exceeds all other
requirements necessary for a commercial helicopter license. This evaluation
requires that pilots demonstrate their flying skills while the aircraft
is actually in flight. Unlike other pilots, our pilots are subject to
drug and alcohol testing and continuous criminal background checks.
Each helicopter is inspected and certified by the Federal Government.
Pilots must fly in compliance with all FAA minimum requirements for
helicopters and DLNR has a spotter on each helicopter to ensure compliance.
DOCARE receives helicopter noise complaints even when we are not flying
and when we know that other law enforcement agencies are not flying.
DEA, Police, FAA and other agencies also receives these same complaints.
We have asked for, but have never received, photographs, video or any
other evidence that aircraft under our control are hovering or flying
low over residences.
Commercial aircraft used by DOCARE for marijuana eradication have individual
identifying numbers permanently fixed to the mast or tail boom 10 to
12 inches high, painted in a color that is contrasting to the overall
color of the aircraft. Noise complaint callers have never been able
to identify any aircraft in their complaints by make, model, color,
or the conspicuous identification numbers found on all of our aircraft.
These same callers have not been able to describe the occupants, or
identify how many individuals are on board these low flying, hovering
noise-producing aircraft. DOCARE has investigated noise complaints whenever
afforded an opportunity to do so, however, most callers remain anonymous
and refuse to give us any additional information.
Other helicopters not associated with us and for a variety of reasons,
fly over the same areas from where we receive noise complaints.
Aircraft approved for our missions are required to have a radar altimeter
in addition to the standard pressure altimeter. Simply put, this means
that at any time during flight, our pilots and our DLNR Observer knows
exactly how high they are above the ground.
DOCARE's minimum helicopter flight distance from roads, structures,
and inhabited dwellings is 1,000 feet.
Low, slow flight only occurs over public land plots that contain marijuana
or evidence of other illegal activities such as the construction of
an illegal structure, roads or the clear cutting of vegetation. It is
not uncommon for enforcement officers or land managers to observe for
the first time, illegal activities that would have otherwise gone on
undetected without the aid of our marijuana eradication flights.
Helicopter operations associated with marijuana surveillance and eradication
also affords DLNR with the only opportunity to over fly and evaluate
large tracks of otherwise inaccessible land. Issues and concerns relating
to hunting areas, injured and missing persons, watersheds, forest reserves
and other DLNR related areas of jurisdiction have been discovered and
addressed during marijuana eradication missions.